Chapter

Phonetic laws, language diffusion, and drift: the loss of sibilants in the Greek dialects of the first millennium BC

Anna Morpurgo Davies

in Laws and Rules in Indo‐European

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609925
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741579 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609925.003.0007
Phonetic laws, language diffusion, and drift: the loss of sibilants in the Greek dialects of the first millennium BC

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  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
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Similar sound changes are often found in related languages or dialects. How do we decide whether they are inherited from a common period or are independent developments or instances of diffusion from one language to the other? It may be difficult or impossible to reach a conclusion for the prehistoric period, but can we do so for ancient languages actually attested? This chapter considers those Greek dialects of the First Millennium BC (Laconian, Western Argolic, Elean, Cypriot) which show a change of intervocalic /s/ to /h/ or zero partially replicating the prehistoric change of Indo-European *s to Greek [h]. No certainty is possible but both drift (in the sense of structural predisposition) and diffusion seem to be plausible motivations for the change. The former has recently been shown to be important in the development of World Englishes, the latter may have acted as catalyst for the former.

Keywords: Ancient Greek dialects; sibilant weakening; drift; language diffusion; sound change; Laconian; Argolic; Cypriot; Elean

Chapter.  9443 words. 

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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